Running through the second-largest city in the country, and possessing of the most notorious traffic patterns, the 101 freeway in Los Angeles County is about to get a green makeover with the largest wildlife crossing overpass on Earth.
LA County has a large mountain lion population, but the extensive development of the area and surrounding cities has created pockets of isolated habitat sliced up by immense roads like the 101, 110, and 405. This creates problems of not only the risk of lions attempting to cross the road and being killed by cars.
“We know from science what’s going on there, and it’s a little deeper than just that the animals are getting hit by cars,” Beth Pratt of the National Wildlife Federation, one of several partner organizations working on the project, explained to Fast Company. “They are becoming genetically isolated, because animals cannot move into the small islands of habitat that are created by our freeways.”
Facilitated in part by Save LA Cougars and the National Wildlife Federation, 2,700 mostly private donors have raised $15 million for the construction of a 165-foot crossing that will pass over the 101 in Liberty Canyon, the designs for which are in the final stages of completion.
The overpass will be covered in extra-dense trees and other vegetation, to make the crossing as silent and shaded as possible, so the lions will feel comfortable and secure in using it.
Between Thousand Oaks and Calabasas, where some of the wealthiest Hollywood celebs have their digs, the freeway will connect two areas of wildlife habitat, Malibu Creek State Park/Santa Monica Mountains and Palo Comado Canyon, and will hopefully create a corridor through which lions can travel freely and reach other areas of the mountains.
If fundraising continues, according to Save LA Cougars, a non-profit set up to support the project, ground will break on the overpass in 2021. That’s good news all round.